Arts & Culture

KCUR’s Arts & Culture Desk covers arts news from music to visual art to dance and theater, with a focus on Kansas and Missouri.

Our reporters explore the behind-the-scene stories about newsmakers and emerging artists. We also take a look at the intersections of arts and technology, science and creativity, and present profiles of creative people. 

The cars, the exotic locations, the action scenes, the gadgets, the women … even the most casual moviegoer is familiar with the world of James Bond. But what is Bond's place in the world today? We review Spectre, the latest in the franchise, with a movie critic, a tech inventor and a travel enthusiast.


American composers have played a role in turning the political tables in our society. Dr. Anna Celenza speaks with Steve Kraske about how their compositions influenced people's hearts and minds.


The Breakthrough Moment

Nov 12, 2015

Enrique Chi of the band Making Movies stopped by the studio to tell the story of his band's breakthrough moment. Which included a broken van, a crowded bus and a car engulfed in flames. This story kicks off a Generation Listen KC storytelling event at Knuckleheads with the theme Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

We explore how veterans are using art to reconnect with civilian life, and we'll also investigate how we thank veterans for their service.


Jen Chen/KCUR

For Dave Loewenstein, a Lawrence-based artist, there’s more to creating a mural than just painting the side of a building.

In his experience, making a piece of public art has encouraged conversations (and offers of help) from passers-by, resulting in what he calls an “improvised gathering space.”

“It’s sort of like a Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner for a while when the murals are going up,” he told Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Kansas City No Violence Alliance partners and ArtsTech came together with neighborhood associations along Prospect Avenue Saturday to honor Ivanhoe neighborhood leaders with a mural.

Youth artists with ArtsTech unveiled the mural, titled "Then and Now," at the corner of 39th and Prospect. The mural was collaboratively painted by more than 75 youth artists, photographed and then framed.

One half depicts 39th and Prospect as it looked from the 1940s to 1960s, and the other shows what the area looks like and could feature in the near future.

Jen Chen/KCUR

Murals are more than just decorative outdoor projects. Two local muralists and the co-director of Called to Walls, a new documentary about community-based art in the Midwest (screening tonight at KU) discuss the process of creating a piece of public art that can reflect the past, present and aspirational future of a community.


When Anthony Ladesich found his father's youthful correspondence with an old Navy friend on a stack of reel-to-reel tapes, he also found so much more: a portal into Kansas City's jazz history, material for his films, and a way of keeping his dad with him a little longer.

Ladesich is showing his movies in the Kansas International Film Festival.


  • Anthony Ladesich, filmmaker, Be It Ever So Humble, There Is No Place and Studio A

From the podcast the memory palace, by Nick DiMeo: The Ballad of Captain Dwight, an African-American astronaut who, during JFK's administration, almost made it to the moon.

photo courtesy of the author

Delays, misplaced reservations, waking up hungover and discovering your money is gone ... those are the hazards of travel today. Or are they? A writer with Kansas roots tells us about The Misadventures of Wenamun, his new comic about an ancient Egyptian priest who is known as "history's original literary traveler."


Courtesy Unicorn Theatre

Audiences at the Unicorn Theatre will see higher-tech productions thanks to a $100,000 grant, the theater has announced.

The grant, from the David Beals Charitable Trust, will support technology upgrades in lighting, sound, projection and electrical systems.

“We’re going to be able to do some things we couldn’t do before,” said Cynthia Levin, the Unicorn’s producing artistic director.

When we explored the life of Charlie Parker earlier this year, we were told that you can't talk about the history of jazz without talking about drugs. Is that true about the arts in general?


  • Jan Schall, curator, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
  • Clancy Martin, writer
  • Chuck Haddix, host, The Fish Fry on KCUR
Kyle Smith / KCUR

Perhaps it's the insight into the creative process. Or maybe it's because they seem like larger-than-life figures. Whatever the case, there's just something fascinating about reading about the lives of artists.

KCUR's Bibliofiles — our book critics — share their favorite books about artists with Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard.

Here are their recommendations:

Kaite Stover, Kansas City Public Library:

Fifty years after US troops landed in Vietnam, a 24-year-old victim of Agent Orange and an American struggling with depression create a life-changing bond. 


  • Elizabeth Van Meter, writer and producer of "Thao's Library."
  • Cynthia Haines, film critic for KCUR

Thao's Library is now showing at AMC Town Center 20. For movie showtimes, click here.

Kansas City Art Institute

It’s official: the Kansas City Art Institute’s interim president, Tony Jones, will stay on as the school’s next leader.

Jones came to Kansas City last year from Chicago, where he was chancellor and professor emeritus at the Art Institute of Chicago.

He stood alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for civil rights, yet the name Bayard Rustin remains largely unknown. We hear the story of this important figure in history. 


Kyle Smith/KCUR

They're difficult, they're demanding, they're egocentric, passionate, creative — and they make for great book fodder. KCUR's Bibliofiles discuss the best books about artists.



Carl Van Vechten / Wikimedia Commons

To some Kansas Citians, he's a local grandpa-type figure. To others, he's best known for his sinuous paintings with a Midwestern spin. We get a primer on Thomas Hart Benton, who is the subject of a new exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.


Kansas City Artists Interpret "Alice In Wonderland"

Oct 20, 2015

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has inspired countless unique interpretations within art, literature, dance, theatre, music and film. We take a look at some local artists' versions as the story turns 150 years old.


Kansas City comedian Brian Huther is only half surprised that the flag-dressed front-porch beer-drinking character he created has grown exponentially more famous over the last four days as the "Your Drunk Neighbor: Donald Trump" video went viral.

The story of Summer Farrar, an artist whose current project is exonerating the wrongly convicted using microscopic hair comparison analysis. How an artist ended up in the mix, and what she brings to the table.


This is the story of a man who built the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas; the man who purchased and cared for the sculpture environment nearly a century later; and the town whose survival increasingly depends on grassroots art.

Adolfo Gustavo Martinez

When Kansas City artist Adolfo Gustavo Martinez lived in Edinburg, Texas, in the 1980s, he spent most Sundays at bars in the border towns listening to live Tex-Mex music.

He recalls with fondness being able to see people grilling and partying just across the Rio Grande River in Mexico.

“The Rio Grande Valley isn’t very wide, probably like a street,” Martinez says. “You could see them right there, right across the river.”

How do artists sell their art — at art fairs, galleries or online? We explore the arts economy in Kansas City with two local artists and a gallery director. Plus, Adolfo Gustavo Martinez discusses his painting, El Sacrificio, which is on display at The Late Show.


Andrea Tudhope / KCUR

This past weekend, the KC Zine Collective hosted the first-ever KC Zine Conference at the Uptown Theater. It was lively and well-attended — a colorful scene, adorned with twinkle lights, banners and, of course, the vibrant zines themselves, exhibited by up to 90 local and regional artists.

Paper Trail

Aug 31, 2015
Andrea Tudhope / KCUR

Zines are like small magazines, except that they're drawn, written, photocopied, bound and distributed entirely by hand. These scrappy missives were crucial to the 1970s punk scene, and they enthralled pre-Internet youngsters with the allure of getting their ideas out into the world. Hear the KC counterculture history zines tell, as well as their significance today.


Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

A Johnson County journalism professor is obsessed with cacti. And a Los Angeles-based artist is obsessed with the journalism professor's obsession with cacti. How did this happen?


  • Amir H. Fallah, artist, The Caretaker exhibit at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Mark Raduziner, professor of journalism, Johnson County Community College
C.J. Janovy / KCUR

First Friday in Kansas City's Crossroads neighborhood is always a street party. But on the first Friday in August, the third annual Southwest x Central Street Fest spotlights artists who don't typically get as much exposure as others: the musicians, writers and artists of Imagine That!, a non-profit studio of artists with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Courtesy of Gary Staab

Gary Staab might appear to be an ordinary guy.

He lives in small-town, rural Kearney, Missouri, with his wife, Lissi, and their two teenage sons, Max and Owen. He plays guitar for the Mechanical Prairie Dogs, and is learning to play cello in his spare time.

But for a living, Staab sculpts prehistoric monsters and ancient human ancestors. He constructs wooden skeleton bases, shapes and welds bodies with wire, crafts muscles and eyeballs and molds resin flesh with epoxy.

America has a long history with Peter, Paul and Mary, the folk group that endured for 49 years, won five Grammys and kicked out 13 top-40 hits.  Noel Paul Stookey, one of the two living members talks about the trio's memorable career and of the issues he's still passionate about today.